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American Dream Per Dollar, the lowest cost path to a degree and 400k home.


I was talking to an Efficiency Is Everything User who is the owner of multiple homes and a college degree with no college debt, age 25.

I was curious what the most optimal path to this ‘American Dream’ of being college debt free and owning a 400k USD home. Note- I personally don’t know if I support personal home mortgages, but this can otherwise be viewed as-

“Paid College degree and $80,000”

We have Michael and Mandy Kirk, Austin, and Francesca racing to 80k.

Michael(Me) and Dr. Mandy Kirk

I saved a few thousand dollars by being stingy as a child, knowing I’d need to pay for college. I worked a retail clothing job making ~9k yr until I got coop job turned midnight shift job paying 38k/yr. This worked out as I took 60 credits at the community college and 68 credits at our local university, living off campus(19k/yr expense). Year 2 my parents loaned me $9k USD to pay for college and I was able to pay it back by graduation with the help of my process technician job.

From there it was engineering money. And both the costs and the benefits of my wife’s Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. We finally bought our house 9 years after high school graduation. Speaking of benefits, Dr. Mandy now has over 40 patients per week.

9 Years.

Michael Kirk(Individual Run)

Suppose in 2012 I didn’t buy a wedding ring and doctorate degree. I hit 80k+ savings year 7.

7 Years.

Austin

A veteran Active Duty Marine uses benefits to get free college and VA loans that require no down payment. The catch is that you need 4 years of Active Duty. (Austin did 5 years Active Duty)

Austin then found a college that you could take tests to get credits toward the degree. He could study for the tests, take them, and get credit for the classes. The total cost of his bachelor degree was $~7200, the government paid for almost all of it by being in the Air Force or Army Reserves. In 2020 Austin finished his Bachelors degree and got a pay raise to $115,000/yr. Or so he expected, until he was called upon in the reserves. Its both a pay cut and cost of living cut as he no longer needs the place he currently rents. He currently is getting the government to pay for his masters degree.

This is a way to get the same outcome and meets the goal-line. Reminder, this could be shorter with 4 years active duty or using reserves.

7 Years.

Francesca

Our conversation started off with her teaching piano lessons and saving money since she was 13. Even with us only tracking her from 18 on, she had Money figured out. After her first year of college she worked a intern job, taught piano, and did school. When you make ~20k profit per year before graduating college you are going to win this race.

Some notes about this lifestyle. She said her parents were annoying and work was more tolerable than being home. And one time she almost fell asleep teaching piano lessons.

5 Years.

Conclusions and Errors

Here is the raw data. Francesca wins the race by the numbers.

However, is the race to a downpayment on a 400k house a good metric?

Upon finishing the race the Engineer and Dr of Physical Therapy has a revenue close to 300k/yr, Francesca makes teacher pay.

The Final Ultimate Answer – Job/Reserves for 2 years while working a second job and getting a high value degree.

Marry a doctor.

Possibly join the reserves as they have $5k/yr or higher benefit toward school plus access into potentially high paying ‘top secret’ government jobs. It takes ~39 days per year x8 hour days, a benefit of about 16$/hr.

Or maybe you get a factory engineering job and learn about Industrial Engineering while attending engineering school.

The trend is having no time and high value degrees. Anecdote: I thought the weekends and money was nice.

Bonus note: Western Governors University allows you to test out of classes, saving money. Might be worth considering a college that lets you do this.

Outro

Hope this was engineering enough, but for such a critical life decision as a career it seems necessary for Efficiency Is Everything to cover it. Completing a suggested path is going to be difficult, but consider it like exercising a muscle in toughness- wait, that’s not engineering.

Wish you the best,
Lead Engineer
Michael Kirk